Tag Archives: SYRIZA

An interview on Italy, Greece, the Left and Marxism – VOX POPULI

This is the English transcript of an interview that will appear in VOX POPULI (https://revolucionvoxpopuli.wordpress.com/) translated in Italian

 

VOX POPULI interview

December 2019

 

  1. You stood out in 2016 with the famous letter against SYRIZA, indicated as a subject falsely aimed at change. In particular, you accused SYRIZA of having negotiated with the EU, thus accepting the logic and structure of the Troika program. The conditions that were then emerging and which you lucidly predicted consisted in the analysis of the Rescue Plan for Greece, where the interests of two large economic blocks, the European and the American, were played out. In particular, if the first feared for a debt cut, being in favor of a renegotiation on the terms of expiry and on the interests, the second favored the net cut of the debt in order to guarantee itself a hegemonic economic and political block (exploiting the influence of global deleveraging and of the debt’s haircut on EU’s official interest rates). Always according to your letter, the constraint of the steel cage of austerity was the result of the mediation between these interests. To what degree does this strategic decision have influence today and how much can Greece call itself the contemporary field of mediation – and irresponsible speculation – between the interests of Europe in the fiscal compact and the neoliberalism of Maastricht and Lisbon and the new policy of the American power under the Trump doctrine?

 

The contemporary tragedy of Greece has two major and one minor instigators. The minor instigator is the Greek bourgeoisie. It entered the European imperialist integration project aspiring that this will elevate it within the pyramid of imperialism through its partnership with the more advanced Western European capitals. This ‘big idea’ backfired terribly as its odds were very demanding and the Greek capital could not face up to this challenge. The eruption of the 2008 global capitalist crisis (a falling profitability crisis) and the subsequent 2010 Greek debacle (which appeared as a fiscal crisis although it was caused by both Greek capital’s falling profitability and its imperialist exploitation by the more developed Western capitals) put an end to this ‘big idea’ and demoted the Greek capitalism within the international imperialist pyramid. Of course, the Greek people pays the cost for this failure.

However, Greek is a middle-level capitalism and also a sub-imperialist economy. The latter means that, although it is able to exploit economically less developed capitalisms in its neighboring areas (e.g. Balkans), it is subject to imperialist dominance by more developed capitalisms. In the post-war era two are the main imperialist dominators of Greece. The first one is the US which assumed this role from Britain in the midst of the Greek civil war. The second is the agglomeration of Western European capitals forming the basis of the EU; with the contradictions and conflicts that exist between them. When the European integration project was under the auspices of the EU (approximately till the 1980s), the US left the primacy in economic matters to the EU although it kept the overall geopolitical hegemony. When European capitals attempted to deepen their integration, expand and ultimately challenge the US hegemony the previously mentioned arrangement fell apart. The 2008 crisis intensified the imperialist rivalry between them. The Greek capitalist crisis became one of the grounds on which the US-EU tug-of-war (conflict cum compromise) takes place.

In the beginning of the crisis both hegemons agreed on the austerity policies of troika’s Economic Adjustment Programmes. The representatives of the two hegemons (the IMF for the US and the ECB and the EU for the Europeans) had equal leverage in troika’s decision-making. However, the economic risks were unequal as the European loans were greater and less secure than those of the IMF. Moreover, when the urgency of the initial phase of the crisis passed, different and opposing strategies emerged between the US and the EU. The former put on the table the issue of debt restructuring which the latter strived to avoid. Also, significant differences merged between the conditionalities and the policy proposals of the IMF and the European side. In a nutshell, Greece became one of the battle grounds of the US-EU rivalry. Slowly, the IMF started distancing itself from the Greek debacle. The Trump administration exacerbated US unilateralism and aggressiveness. This led today in the earlier repayment of IMF’s loans and the assumption by it of the role of the advisor. On the other hand, and ironically, although the Europeans bore the greater part of loans and risks, it was the US capital that made the bigger inroads in the Greek economy.

The Greek bourgeoisie tries to equilibrate between its two imperialist patrons. On the one hand, it is part of the EU and subject to its dictums; particularly given its down-graded status to that of an almost failed state. On the other hand, the US has a very strong economic position in Greece and also is the crucial geopolitical and military factor in the Greek – Turkish regional rivalry. Indicatively, the SYRIZA government tied itself unashamedly to the US but shied away from agreeing with the IMF’s demand for a debt haircut. So long as the US – EU rivalry increases – and the current global economic downturn increasingly points towards this – then the Greek bourgeoisie wil be in a terribly difficult position because it will have to choose side.

 

  1. SYRIZA has demonstrated of not being able to cope with the European stakeholders since the first talks with the Rescue Plan Commission: during this period the ostracization of Varoufakis was the great question mark for European Marxism (obviously, not that Varoufakis was a Marxist thinker!). What has really happened? Why did Tsipras chase away the man who could give the appearance of being the professional of the party and an inflexible authority regarding European affairs? Was Varoufakis a victim of Tsipras, of Europe or of his possible inconclusiveness?

 

It never ceases to amaze me the interest that continues to exist in the Western Left about Varoufakis. It is either a matter of political and ideological disorientation and/or of misinformation. In Greece it is evident nowadays that he and his personal political fiefdom (the caricature of a political party called MERA 25) are not part of the Left. He is a terrible opportunist and maverick. In theory he is a lesser Keynesian. But he changes masks according to the audience he is addressing. He even said that he is an erratic Marxist (sic!) although he is too erratic and too conservative to be a Marxist. He has well-known ties to the US liberal establishment. As a Finance Minister he agreed with the 80% of troika’s programme. His negotiation tactics with the EU was an utter mess: simply political pose and personal showing off without any serious strategic direction. His party is a personal fiefdom representing middle and small bourgeoisie strata that are socially radical and politically conservative. It has collected other political wannabees and opportunists and have little in common apart from personal ambitions. It exists mainly through the social media and, of course, it has no foundation in mass movements.

He was enlisted in the SYRIZA team, when the latter was preparing to assume the government, almost out of the blue. The main reason that Tsipras personally imposed him upon the previous economic team was Varoufakis’ international backing from circles of the US liberal establishment. As a Finance Minister Varoufakis proved very self-centered and served badly both SYRIZA and his international backers. In toto, he did more for himself than he did for his partners and backers. For this reason, once SYRIZA realized that the US was using it in their tug-of-war with the EU and was not pushing seriously for a debt haircut, the use-value of Varoufakis was exhausted. Moreover, his flamboyant posing made him a suitable sacrifice for the necessary capitulation to the troika. Varoufakis attempted to accommodate himself in the new situation – he even voted for a first version of the third austerity programme – but it was too late for him. Furthermore, it seems that it had exhausted also his use-value for his foreign backers because he was proved to be too self-centered and too incompetent for policy-making. The only thing that, for the time being, he is useful is as a political (and basically electoral) tool.

 

  1. The same (in reference to Varoufakis) was protagonist of an almost cinematographic controversy, which posed the problem of how to react if the banking system and the monetary authorities turn their backs on a government, blocking the mechanisms for creating and transferring the liquidity that regulate the daily economy? From here the issue regarding the top secret Plan B narrated by the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, in which Varoufakis decided to involve a professor of Information Technologies from the Columbia University, in order to hack the computer system of the Greek Tax Agency and get control of the platform. He wanted to use an electronic infrastructure to transfer money between the Greeks in case of emergency, as Varoufakis clearly admits, creating a parallel banking system as a payment system capable of keeping the economy in gear for a little while. This measure was never approved, and according to our economic sensitivity (however limited) it could turn out to be a buffer solution: in your opinion, would such a strategy make sense to be adopted? Or rather, did it have a possibility of being successfully applied? Would you support it or would you suggest approaching the situation in another way?

 

Let us clear things first.

The so-called plan X of Varoufakis was simply an idea. Ironically, even close associates of him betrayed that it never existed as an operational plan. The basic idea was to organize a public system that could collect directly payments for citizens for covering their payments to the state. This would be independent from the banking system, which was grosso modo controlled by the ECB through the Bank of Greece. Then, this public system could evolve to make payments by the state and thus provide an alternative payments system. Such a mechanism needs time to be organized. It can give some limited degrees off freedom from the EU and the ECB. However, it cannot stand if it is confronted by the main financial system. In the best case it can sustain the state’s fiscal solvency for a limited period. Concluding, this plan could possibly buy some time – if it was operational – against EU’s pressure. But ultimately it will crumble so long as Greece remained withing the EU.

Concluding, this Varoufakis’ idea was another piece of half-baked wizardry. Furthermore, it was never formally accepted by SYRIA as it was afraid of doing even so.

However, the idea of using a parallel currency within a Left programme of disengagement from the EU and socialist transition can be useful. An economy of a country that revolts against the international imperialist order would face an unmerciful international pressure. This would probably mean that it would be cut off from international currencies necessary for buying much needed foreign goods. In such a case, the revolting country would need to safeguard and use with prudence whatever foreign reserves it has. In such cases the creation of two parallel currencies – one for foreign transactions and one for internal transactions – is a well-known tool. The Soviet Union (and also Cuba and others) have used it. Of course, there are other tools that can be used in conjunction or stand-alone (e.g. multiple exchange rates). The Greek revolutionary Left has discussed such ideas as part of a transitional programme. However, these tools can work only outside the EU and its EMU. They are useless if you remain shackled to it.

  1. In reference to the previous question, we cannot forget to mention the recent debates on the difficulties concerning leaving the EU (and we’re taking for granted this is even possible) and ask you a couple of questions about it. Your and Sergio Cesaratto’s article on the Italian website SinistraInRete describes how the Greek economic recovery was described by the European authorities as possible only through the strict austerity (prescribed first by the Troika, now under the supervision of the MES) bringing you to a unanimous conclusion: it’s not possible to rectify the fallacious Greek productive model imposed by the consequences of the access to the European single market, if not outside the current EU. Is, therefore, in your opinion, the EU completely unreformable? If so, how serious are the risks for exiting the EU according to your estimates, both for Greece and for Italy?

 

The European integration project is an imperialist project. This is its DNA. It was created as such; and more specifically as the economic and political back bone of the West in Europe in the face of the Eastern bloc. At that period, it was under the auspices of the US. It evolved as a separate imperialist pole essentially after the collapse of the Eastern bloc; although this tendency was already latent within it before. Its economic mechanism rests upon the imperialist (economic) exploitation of less developed economies. Its political record is equally dismal. Elites and big conglomerates dominate its functions.

This imperialist project cannot be reformed. This is a myth only for idiots. It has been floating for several decades – remember the euro-communist babblings – and it has been disproved by reality.

Moreover, this project is today in deep crisis. It cannot stand up to its main adversary, the US. It is riddled with internal problems and contradictions. Because of these, it is even more dangerous as it attempts to solve its problems by putting their burden on the backs of the peoples of Europe and other regions.

For countries like Greece and Italy breaking out form the shackles of the EU is indeed very difficult. It can certainly not be done the easy way because EU’s shaking house of cards cannot afford even minor disengagements from it. It is afraid that it would generate a domino process and lead to its total disintegration. For this reason, it reacts so violently against any such threat. Nevertheless, for the peoples of Europe – and particularly for those of the peripheral countries – there is no other way apart from struggling to disengage from this reactionary edifice. It is there only possibility for achieving a better future; if not for them at least for their children.

 

  1. It has been hypothesized, outside the institutions, to make the banking sector European by setting up a common clearing house in such a way as to be able to rebalance the profound inequalities between the member states’ economies. There has often been speculation about a common program to combat poverty supported via centralized fiscal policies and the abolition of harmful statutes, such as those relating to the policies that maintain the natural unemployment rate (the Lisbon Treaties is a primary case of such statutes). Do you think that those measures can be functional for a program of radical transformation of the European Union (potentially revolutionary, if you will) or are they just a pious illusion? There have also often been talks of creating alternative currencies valid only within national borders. In Italy this argument has been passed off as the political program of the right on the mini bonds, a non-forced “currency” given by the securitization of new debt: keeping the political instrumentalization of the topic aside, is the use of an alternative currency parallel to the euro a possible option to be used to move forward (this obviously requires a revision of the European treaties concerning the characteristics of the single currency), in your opinion?

There are many proposals by bourgeois perspectives that try to fix some of the growing problems and contradictions of the EU. The creation of a banking union (that is of a common supervisory mechanism and a common deposits’ insurance mechanism) that would unify the country-members’ banking systems and make them more stable. Another proposal are the common EU bonds (that will make borrowing costs the same). One problem of all these proposals is that they oblige the dominant euro-core economies to pay. But the very European integration project has been created for them to be better off. For this reason, they face their resolute opposition. Only in some cases (e.g. banking union) some limited and basically cosmetic steps have been taken.

Regarding the mini-bot proposal, I do not consider it as serious. Essentially, it resembles to the Varoufakis’ plan X and suffers from the same problems and deficiencies. I have refered to them in a previous question.

 

  1. In addition to the Europe of the fiscal compact and the trap of cofinancing, impossible to spend in a timely manner for Italy because of the risk of the infringement procedure, is there still hope for a European project?

As I said before, I do not think that there can be a common project of a social Europe within the framework of the EU.

But also, I think that it is highly improbable to emerge a common European movement leading to another direction. The class struggle in the various European countries is very differentiated and exhibits very uneven levels. Hence, in each country the class struggle – and within it the struggle for disengaging from the EU – will take its own path and its own timing.

  1. Do you consider the Eurosceptic program of communist or leftist political groups like the KKE and France Inoumise credible? In Italy, the Eurostop platform, for example, adopts the Euro-Mediterranean Dawn project of Marxist professor Luciano Vasapollo. Have you heard about this proposal and what are your thoughts about it? Is it a viable option?

To my knowledge, these are different positions.

The Greek KKE has a terribly hypocritical position. It argues that disengaging from the EU is insignificant because there will still be capitalism. So, it practically makes the absurd argument that first you achieve socialism and then you leave the EU. Of course, it hypocritically bypasses the argument that you cannot build socialism unless you have broken out from the EU first. KKE adopts this position today (contrary to its previous historical position about disengaging from the EU) not out of idiocy but out of political conformism. It knows very well that the anti-EU position is an anathema for the Greek bourgeoisie and KKE does not want to face its wrath as it is well established within the official political system. Marx had written that the Church of England does not care if you dispute the 99 out of its 100 articles of faith. However, it becomes wild if you dispute 1% of its property. KKE prefers to mouth big leftish declarations but abstains from challenging crucial elements of the bourgeois system.

The position of France Insoumise is different and it is typical of a short-sighted euro-scepticism that cannot challenge the EU. All those leftist Eurosceptics argue that there is a progressive alternative if you leave the European Monetary Union (EMU) but you stay within the EU (that is the Common Market and the political structures). This is an utterly stupid – if not hypocritical – position. The core of the imperialist and the economically exploitative mechanism of the European integration lies in the Common Market. The euro is a complimentary aspect. Also, the political mechanism of the European integration has in its genes the bourgeois prerogatives.

Finally, regarding proposals like that of L.Vasapollo I think that they are too good to be true. As I said before, the class struggle and the political consciousness of the working class and the popular strata is very different and uneven even in the euro-Mediterranean countries. Hence, their trajectories are quite different and not easy to converge. So, I do not see as feasible – at least at the time being – such a proposal.

 

  1. In 2004 you published a text which is almost impossible to find in Italy, «Forms of existence of abstract labor and value-form». Could you give us a view of your interpretation on the Marxian theory of value in relation to new schools of study (such as TSSI, the SSS or, closer to us, the Neue Marx Lektüre begun by Rubin and Pashukanis and completed by the works of Reichelt and Backhaus )?

This is a very big issue and cannot be addressed here. I will give only a few hints.

I consider that the essence of value is abstract labour. The latter is defined in the sphere of production and – at a first level – independently from money. Of course, in its full development, abstract labour is expressed through the general equivalent (that is money). For this reason, I maintain that Marx’s distinction between the internal measure of value (that is labour) and the external measure of value (that is money) is correct. Thus, approaches that identify directly abstract labour with money (like the New Solution to the Transformation Problem, or the value-form theorists) are erroneous.

I totally disagree with the Neue Lekture and M.Heinrich’s endeavours. They too equate abstract value with money. Moreover, they totally misrepresent Marx by arguing either that he did not had a Labour Theory of Value (as their habitual popularizer D.Harvey has written) or that he had a monetary theory of value. First, it has been shown not only by me but also by others, that their analysis has nothing to do with Pashukanis and especially Rubin. Rubin has explicitly said that the essence of value is abstract labour and it can be conceived independently from money. The Neue Lekture and their fellow-travelers are doing a terribly misrepresentation of his views. Second, the argument about a monetary theory of value is absurd and leads, ultimately, to the abandonment of the concept of value as redundant. The first so-called ‘Rubin School’ (Benetti, Cartelier etc.) has followed this road. The value-form theorists also did the same. Moreover, the Neue Lekture writers exhibit an unbelievable ignorance of the actual workings of a capitalist economy and simply occupy themselves with dubious philological interpretations of Marx’s works. Overall, I think that the Neue Lekture does a terrible disservice to Marxism. It disintegrates it as a coherent system. And its political connotations are equally disastrous: it leads Marxists to be the handmaidens of bourgeois reformism.

Finally, regarding the TSS, I do not agree with the way the model time.

  1. Do you consider the opposition to the EU of sovereignist organizations such as Salvini’s League credible/sincere/honest/reasonable/conceivable?

Well, I think that in several more developed European capitalisms (not in Greece) there are strong fractions of their bourgeoisies that are disappointed by the course of the European integration. More specifically, they are angered from the growing power of Germany and the cluster of economies around it. These are the main forces behind LePen and Salvini. These forces aspire to some other international alliances and usually look towards the US (see for example Boris Johnson). In this sense there maybe sincere in their confrontation with the EU. There may also strike some form of compromise (temporary or not).

In all cases this is a different road – and also a rival one – to that of the Left and the people. Their course is for a differently structured capitalism. And the costs for this transformation will be paid by the working class and the people. The road of the Left should be to struggle for disengaging from the EU as a first necessary step for creating socialism.

 

  1. How do you judge the recent victory of the center-right in Greece and what consequences will there be in your country’s relationship with European institutions?

SYRIZA, with its opportunism and its subservience to bourgeois interests, paved the way for the recent big victory of New Democracy. This right-wing government proceeds with a very aggressive policy. In terms of economic policy there is no serious difference between SYRIZA and ND. The directions of economic policy in Greece are being dictated by the Economic Adjustment Programme. The only thing that both the previous and this governments can do is to redistribute some of the so-called super-surplus (that is blood money stolen from the people and accumulated on top of the Programme’s targets). Both SYRIZA and ND gave tax allowances to capital. Their only difference is that SYRIZA taxed the small bourgeoisie and the upper working class and gave some peanuts to the precariat. The ND changes this by giving some peanuts to the small bourgeoisie and the upper working class.

In political and institutional matters, the ND proceeds with far-reaching reactionary changes (privatisations, police repression, trade unions laws, entrepreneuralisation of education etc.). This has already produced mass popular reactions. For the first time, after the stagnation of the SYRIZA era, there are again mass mobilisations and demonstrations in Greece.

The economic situation is on a razor’s end. There is no serious recuperation from the crisis and the economy lives on drugs. The debt problem remains huge. Apart from the internal causes, a possible new world economic crash would leave the Greek economy in tatters.

In these conditions, the EU on the one hand accommodates a bit ND’s policies. But on the other hand, it issues stern warnings and exerts pressure. It wants to avoid having to tackle an Italian problem together with a Greek problem; for example. But it does not want to leave Greece footloose because this will create a bad example to others and also new problems.

The US plays its cards both in the entrepreneurial front but also in the geopolitical one exerting its leverage in the Greek – Turkish rivalry.

 

A comment in PRESS TV News on the supposed Greek exit from the troika program

Yesterday (21/8/2018) I made a short comment in PRESS TV News regarding the supposed Greek exit from the troika (IMF-EU-ECB) program.

The main points of the comment are the following.

The supposed exit from the troika program is a sham. The program is practically continuing as there are more austerity measures in the pipeline, the repayment of the troika loans will take several decades (and it is not guaranteed, hence a future default is always on the cards) and the supervision by at least the EU mechanisms (if IMF leaves the program as is expected) will also continue for many years.

The program is a failure. Its declared aim (however myopic it may be) was to make the Greek public external debt viable. It has not achieved it as the current debt/GDP ratio is higher than in the beginning of the program. Furthermore, austerity has weakened the Greek economy making its growth rospects dismal.

So the SYRIZA government’s and EU’s rejoicing about the succesful completion of the program is a sham orchestrated for cheap political and economic reasons.

The Greek people will continue to bear the burden of this anti-popular program and the policies that lay behind it for many years.

 

The video of the interview follows:

 

Sergio Cesaratto and Stavros Mavroudeas – Revelli, SYRIZA and giving to Caesar what it is due to him… – BRAVE NEW EUROPE

Sergio Cesaratto and Stavros Mavroudeas – Revelli, SYRIZA and giving to Caesar what it is due to him…

While the EU, the IMF, and Syriza are trying to sale the tale of a Greek recovery, the facts reveal another story.

Sergio Cesaratto is Professor of Growth and Development Economics and of Monetary and Fiscal Policies in the European Monetary Union, University of Siena

Stavros Mavroudeas is Professor of Political Economy at the Department of Economics at the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki

In a recent article Marco Revelli published in Greek and Italian – a habitual guest in Greece of SYRIZA and its government – made a diatribe against what he called ‘pseudo-left’ for considering Tsipras a traitor and SYRIZA’s economic policy a failure. In an uncalled-for polemic (that included one of the signatories of this reply, here his article in New Brave Europe), he accused this ‘pseudo-left’ for being nationalist and for helping the populist and nationalist right-wing ND in Greece. Revelli gratuitously equates every left criticism of SYRIZA’s policies with the neoliberal one of ND.

Revelli uses as title of his piece (in Greek) the evangelic dictum (‘give Caesar what is due to him and give God what is due to him also’). Let us see if the dues he offers to his Caesar or God (in this case SYRIZA) are correct or not.

He begins by praising SYRIZA’s ability to manage better troika’s austerity program so as to avoid a greater social damage. The evidence he offers is, to say the least, flimsy or simply wrong. Medical services remain underfunded and with gross lack of personnel. On top of that, SYRIZA has signed (in the 3rd Memorandum) and is pursuing deep cuts in both welfare benefits and pensions (note that 51% of households rely on pensions). In particular, a huge new cut is scheduled for January 2019. These cuts have increased the levels of poverty in Greece even more than previously (approximately 37% of the population are at risk of poverty or social exclusion). The protection of the first home ownership from auctions is withdrawn (according to the Memorandum signed by SYRIZA) and auctions of people’s homes proceed at a faster pace, aided by electronic auctions legislated by SYRIZA so as to avoid public resistance and protests. This is something that even the previous governments had not dare to undertake. New taxes are being put on the working and the middle classes worsening even further income distribution. On the other hand, the flagship of Greek capital – the shipowners – not only remain scandalously untaxed but SYRIZA (similarly with all previous governments) has heartily embraced them and protects their privileges. Last but not the least, Revelli instead of talking nonsense regarding the health sector, should better look at the evidence: new cuts have been imposed by SYRIZA and the health expenditure has been so severely curtailed that it is not viable.

Revelli uses a sophistry in order to masquerade this sham. He maintains that we must measure the state of the Greek economy not from the beginning of the crisis but since SYRIZA’s ascent to the government. Then he argues we can see that growth has returned and unemployment is falling. Revelli (and SYRIZA’s mouthpieces in Greece) forgets that the economic policy applied in Greece is one and continuous: troika’s austerity policy. This happens irrespective of minor management differences of the three consecutive Greek governments (PASOK, ND-PASOK, SYRIZA-ANELL) which were merely cosmetic. The great bulk of the fiscal consolidation of the program had taken place under the previous governments. So, the part left for SYRIZA was smaller; although his policy blunders worsen it. Depression was slowing the previous years and positive growth rates were nearing. This was not something unexpected. Capitalist economies operate with cycles. The abnormal thing was the length and the debt of the Greek depression. However, the return of positive growth rates does not guarantee neither their size not their longevity.

But Revelli’s growth under SYRIZA argument is wrong even in his own terms. The return to growth is meagre and continuously falls behind official projections. The output gap remains very high (25% less than output’s level at the beginning of the crisis). The better-than- projected primary surpluses are due to the increased taxation and the severe restriction of public expenditure. Both these policies applied by SYRIZA dampen the growth potential as Greece remains a consumption-led economy. Also, SYRIZA’s much publicized ‘exit to private international markets for loans’ is, similarly to that of the previous ND-PASOK government, a sham. It concerns mainly debt servicing, it comes at very high cost (around 4% interest) and does not extend beyond the period of troika’s supervision of Greece. And once problems appeared in the EU with Italy’s new government and the trade war with the US it was put on hold.

SYRIZA is also preaching that it had reduced unemployment. This is also a fake argument. Unemployment remains very high (more than 20% with youth’s unemployment as high as 40%). It has been slightly reduced because there is a decrease of the labor force because of population shrinkage and immigration abroad (a recent European Commission study projects that Greece’s labour force will be reduced by 35% during 2020-2060; according to the official data more than 710,000 Greek citizens migrated during the period 2010-2016). Furthermore, new jobs are bad jobs: just a few months of employment which are enough to get you out of the unemployment lists (full-time jobs are decreasing from 2017 till today, 3 out of 4 unemployed are in long-term unemployment), with meagre wages and barbaric working conditions.

Revelli employs another sophistry. While he laments that the EU did not concede to a debt haircut for Greece, he argues that the debt reprofiling offered (in the form of payment extension and smoothing the interest rates) amounts to a haircut. This is the argument posed by Germany and the EU and Revelli (and SYRIZA) wholeheartedly accept it. However, as even the recent study by IMF (1st August 2018) shows, its effects are ambiguous (Greece gets a debt relief if it applies new neoliberal reforms and succeeds in keeping the austerity program on track; which actually would make debt relief unnecessary) and its actual impact insubstantial. For this reason, every serious Debt Sustainability Analysis of Greek debt (IMF’s 2018 one included) concludes that it is unsustainable. Tellingly, the debt to GDP ratio remains higher than 180% (it has actually increased during the last months because of the new loan tranches) and it will increase after the end of the 10year debt payment referral (as IMF 2018 estimates). In the possible case of worse scenario (smaller growth, higher interest rates, lower primary surpluses) IMF estimates that it will go up to 198% in 2023.

Moreover, the EU and the SYRIZA government declare that Greek debt is sustainable because Greece will achieve spectacular growth rates (on average 2% for a considerable period of time, which conspicuously has never been accurately defined) and primary surpluses (3,5% till 2022 and 2,2% till 2060) for a very prolonged period of time. As it is well known in economic literature (and even the IMF reiterates) this is totally unrealistic. Only a very few oil-producing economies have succeeded in achieving such targets. Note also that failure to achieve these targets will activate the automatic ‘cutters’ in wages, pensions and fiscal expenditure that SYRIZA (as early as during Varoufakis ministerial position) has agreed to.

What actually happened in the recent debt negotiations is that the SYRIZA government conformed completely with EU’s dictum that no debt haircut will take place and didn’t even try for a debt haircut.

There is another argument proposed by SYRIZA supporters. That in August 2018 there would be an exit from troika’s supervision and this will permit SYRIZA to apply more active growth-enhancing fiscal policies. This is totally untrue. As even E.Tsakalotos declared supervision by a new troika (with the ESM instead of the IMF) will continue for many years. Furthermore, given the very high primary surplus targets the room for more active fiscal policy is non-existent.

A last point of defense for SYRIZA supporters is that there was no alternative but to accommodate with the EU. This is also a lie. A true Left government in Greece should confront the EU and disengage from it. The Greek crisis is, to a great extent, the product of Greece’s economic restructuring since its accession in the European Common Market. This led to Greece’s deindustrialization, shrinkage and deformation of the primary sector and an overblown and fragile services sector. This productive model has failed utterly, has caused the debt crisis and it cannot be rectified within the EU. It was further aggravated by Greece’s participation in the EMU and the subsequent ceding of crucial economic policies (e.g. monetary policy and ultimately even fiscal policy) to the EU.

This alternative course is perfectly viable but it requires a deep change in Greek society and a confrontation with the dominant interests of Greek capital that is inextricably tied to the European integration. SYRIZA – leaving aside its many contradictory and inconsistent pre-electoral bravados – was never willing to follow this course. It considered it too dangerous for SYRIZA. Furthermore, SYRIZA has well known ties with significant sections of Greek capital; particularly fractions of maritime capital that dominated Greek capitalism in the 1970s and 1980s (called in Greece the ‘old fireplaces’). These ‘old fireplaces’ favoured SYRIZA’s ascent to government and through this took their revenge against the ‘new fireplaces’ that surpassed them in the 1990s.

The misfortune in the Greek case was that the Greek Left (all of its sections) shied away from proposing in concrete terms the abovementioned alternative programme and restraint itself to simply promoting popular mobilisations (resisting troika’s changes but without offering an alternative) and an abstract anti-capitalism (that despite its vociferousness failed to concretely challenge capitalism). This facilitated SYRIZA to steal people’s support; and of course, subsequently, to betray the people.

The current challenge for the Greek Left is how to revive this alternative and, in this way, block the ascendancy of extreme right-wing forces that is being fomented by SYRIZA’s exorbitant failure.

Concluding, Revelli’s diatribe rests on totally insubstantial arguments. SYRIZA is preaching, very similarly with the previous governments, that he is making a ‘success story’. Both ‘success stories’ are equally fake. Greece and its people are doomed within the shackles of the EU.

A final note regarding the true and the pseudo Left. It would be advisable next time M.Revelli accuses others for being pseudo-leftists first to have a look at his mirror.

Comment on SYRIZA’s new law implementing troika’s demands – PressTV News 16-1-2018

This is the video of a short comment in PressTV News (16-1-2018) on SYRIZA’s new multi-article law implementing troika’s demands and imposing furter austerity measures on the Greek people.

Comment in Press TV News in Brief program on the conclusion of the 2nd review of the Greek Adjustment Program and its inability to solve the Greek crisis

The video of my comment in Press TV’s News in Brief program on the conclusion of the 2nd review of the Greek Adjustment Program and its inability to solve the Greek crisis.

The transcript of the comment is the following:

 

Comment in Press TV News in Brief program on the conclusion of the 2nd review of the Greek Adjustment Program and its inability to solve the Greek crisis

2-5-2017

 

The technical agreement (SLA) between the troika of Greece’s lenders (IMF-EU-ECB) – because a political agreement has to follow as well – is a sham. The whole bunch of declarations by the the IMF and the EU and the SYRIZA government are pretentious and not telling the truth. The Greek economy is in shambles. It is in a terrible condition with recession reigning for the seventh consecutive year. The Adjustment Program imposed upon the country by the EU and the IMF has aggravated this situation. Each review of this program and the additional austerity measures that are being taken within this program in order to bring it back in its own tracks aggravate further the recession of the Greek economy and the poverty of the great majority of the Greek people. In these conditions a dirty game is being played between the major partners of these agreements. The EU wants to impose these agreements upon Greece but it requires the tacit agreement of the IMF (that is by the US). The US, on the other hand, fear that they throw a lot of money in the desperate Greek case and also the new Trump administration has taken a more tough line towards the EU. This was the reason for which the negotiations for this second review took too long. That is the IMF created problems. The junior partner of this deal, that is the Greek government of SYRIZA, has capitulated completely. It gives whatever the foreign lenders require so long as the new austerity measures required are not to be applied during this and the next year. But to be applied by 2019, that is after the expiration of the SYRIZA government. This means that the new government would bear the costs and the burden of the new austerity measures. In total the new agreement does not solve the Greek crisis but it aggravates it as it puts another 3.5 to 4 bn euros austerity cuts upon a very weak economy. So, the problems lay ahead.

 

SYRIZA’s fake tug-of-war with the IMF on labour reforms

Following is the transcript of my intervention in today’s News in Press TV (that was marred by connection problems):

 

PRESS TV NEWS item:

Greece says it cannot comply with labor reforms demanded by the IMF as a condition for a third bailout.

Greek Labor Minister George Katrougalos said his government considers the IMF’s demand as a ban on the right of workers to negotiate wages and conditions on a collective basis. Katrougalos noted that a breakdown with the IMF on the issue could jeopardize its financing of the 96-billion dollar bailout and could undermine overall confidence in the deal. The labor Minister said however that Greece can no longer tolerate the deterioration of its workers’ state. Talks are set to be held on Wednesday between Greece and an EU-IMF mission over the country’s bailout future.

 

14-sep-16-8-09-31-pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

My comment:

This whole affair is a masquerade. It is a cheat game between IMF, EU and the SYRIZA government. The sad thing is that Greece and its people are paying the cost of this masquerade.

Let us decipher this cheat game.

The IMF, which primarily expresses the geopolitical and economic interests of the US, pressurizes

  • the EU for a new Greek debt haircut. This is vehemently rejected by the EU (and Germany in particular)
  • Greece for even more austerity and anti-popular reforms. Part of this new package is the more barbaric deregulation of labour relations (whose previous waves of deregulation have contributed to a dramatic increase in unemployment and an equally dramatic decrease in wages).

The IMF blackmails the other two that, unless its conditions are being met, it won’t participate in the third bailout and austerity programme for Greece that the SYRIZA government signed.

The EU wants a strict implementation of the austerity programme without a debt haircut. It considers only the case of an insubstantial debt reprofilling and that after the forthcoming German elections. It does not object in principle to more barbaric labour relations deregulation. But, on the other hand, it is more sensitive than the IMF to the possible disastrous political repercussions of such a move. Especially, it worries that such a bold move might rekindle social resistance – that is dormant after SYRIZA’s betrayal of the anti-austerity movement – and lead to uncontrolled political changes.

Finally, the terribly incompetent and untrustworthy SYRIZA government is the underdog in this cheat game. It simply tries to save its skin and cling as long as possible in power (given its already very low popularity). It might accept another wave of labour relations deregulation if it goes together with even an insubstantial debt reprofilling (that they think that they can ‘sell’ to the Greek public). Their problem is that they have no real power (either economic or in the form of popular support) to press their own objectives. So they are simply trying to find room to play between the positions of the two other big players. On top of that the SYRIZA government and particularly its Minister of Labour are habitual liars. A recent example of this is their public declarations that pensions will not be cut at the very same time that they literally ‘massacre’ them. So the minister’s supposedly intransigent declaration against the IMF’s demands does not hold much water.


Published in COUNTERPUNCH

Cheat Game: SYRIZA’s Fake Tug-of-War With the IMF on Labor Reforms

 

Cheat Game: SYRIZA’s Fake Tug-of-War With the IMF on Labor Reforms

S.Mavroudeas: Intervention in TV PRESS News 25th May 2016 on the bailout deal for Greee

A short comment TV PRESS News 25th May 2016 on the bailout deal for Greee

 

The new late night deal in the Eurogroup on the new bailout for Greece is another blatant hypocricy by the dominant European Union powers, their partner-cum-competitor IMF (aka the US) and the Greek establishment (now represented by the SYRIZA government).

The new deal is an uneasy compromise subject to a continuing tug-of-war between the US (through its proxy, the IMF) and the EU.

Together, the EU and the US obliged the now crumbling (because of people’s anger) SYRIZA government to capitulate to the troika austerity policies as encapsulated in the now three Economic Adjustment Programmes for Greece. These programmes aggravated the depression of the Greek economy, caused a rampant immiserisation of the Greek people and expanded the control of Western capitals on the Greek economy. In this game the US played a second role – not so much behind the curtain – by directing the incompetent and opportunistic SYRIZA government in its clumsy negotiations with the EU. In fact, the US on the one hand used Greece to weaken the EU (for its own purposes and geopolitical interests) and on the other hand backed the EU in order to impose austerity and foreign control on the Greek economy.

Once EU’s and US’ common aim of imposing austerity and anti-popular economic restructuring on Greece has been concluded, then the two partners-um-competitors jostled the one against the other for the terms and the consequences of the necessary debt relief for Greece. Debt relief is necessary because the troika’s Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece is unfeasible and Greek debt is unviable. A few days ago, IMF in its recent preliminary debt sustainability assessment had accepted this.

On the issue of debt relief US and EU hold opposite positions and have conflicting interests. US wants a deep debt haircut because this (a) helps its economy (by deleveraging the world economy on the back of the EU as a new debt haircut would affect mainly the official and inter-state loans of the EU to Greece) and (b) generally weakens EU’s challenge to US global hegemony. On the other side, the EU (and particularly its main hegemone, Germany) abhores a debt haircut and is only willing to concede a debt reprofilling (that is an extention of the maturity of Greek loans and, possibly, a lowering of the interest) that would make debt servicing (but not debt) viable.

In this tug-of-war between the US (through its proxy, the IMF) and the EU the first threatened with leaving the Greek Economic Adjustment Programme and thus obliging Germany to tackle the Greek problem alone. To avoid this Germany and the euro-core offered a typically myopic compromise: a roadmap for a roadmap to a possible debt reprofilling. In plain language, they offered some vague ideas about a methodology (comprised of short-term, mid-term and long-term measures) for postponing the problem (‘kicking the can’) if the Greek Economic Adjustment Programme continues to fail. In the end, the US and the EU agreed on this uneasy and shaky compromise because neither side wanted to push things to the extreme; at least at this point of time with open broader geopolitical problems, the mutual abhorred possibility of Brexit in sight etc.

The opportunistic and incompetent SYRIZA government is a passive spectator in this tug-of-war. It betrayed its anti-austerity declarations and capitulated unconditionally to the troika. A few days ago it legislated a new wave of barbaric austerity measures and of unbashful sell-off of Greek state assets to foreign interests. Its popularity its crumbling rapidly and SYRIZA’s only aim is to cling to government.

The results of this new Greek bailout deal would be equally dismal with those of its predecessors. The new austerity measures would deepen further recession. New measures will be required and the incompetent and subservient SYRIZA government has already agreed and legislated an automatic mechanism (called the ‘cutter’) that, if the programme fails in its milestones, will instigate cuts in public expenditure (and mainly in wages and pensions). If this ‘cutter’ mechanism fails then the debt reprofilling mechanism might come into force. Notwithstanding, it should be pointed out that this reprofilling mechanism is at the moment only some vague ideas that would be discusses in 2017. The accentuation of the Greek depression will increase popular anger and frustration. The EU, the SYRIZA government and the Greek politico-economic establishment (as the oppostition, despite its opportunistic whining in parliament, is a standard-bearer of the Economic Adjustment Programme) will face this burgeoning anger and pay the consequences.

 

Re-blogged in:

 

2016-05-27_10-09-26

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-eurogroup-new-bailout-deal-for-greece/5527302

2016-05-27_10-02-55https://counterinformation.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/the-eurogroup-new-bailout-deal-for-greece/

 

 

 

cp5

Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Syriza is sinking and losing popular support’: Interview in the Catalan website DIRECTA

The following is the transcript of my interview for the Catalan website DIRECTA (04/02/2016). Its title is ‘Syriza is sinking and losing popular support’.

The interview is in Catalan. A grosso modo english translation follows.

———————————————————————————————–

La Directa

https://directa.cat/actualitat/stavros-mavroudeas-syriza-sesta-enfonsant-perdent-suport-popular

Stavros Mavroudeas: “Syriza s’està enfonsant i perdent el suport popular”

Coincidint amb la vaga general a Grècia publiquem una entrevista a l’economista grec Stavros Mavroudeas
Stavros Mavroudeas durant l’entrevista a Atenes
Helena Vàzquez

Stavros Mavroudeas va estudiar a la Universitat d’Atenes, va continuar els seus estudis a la SOAS-Universitat de Londres i finalment va doctorar-se a la Birkbeck College (a Anglaterra). Actualment treballa com a professor d’economia política a la Universitat de Macedònia, a Tessalònica. És autor de diversos llibres i es considera una persona activa a l’esquerra. Ha aparegut en alguns programes de televisió representant el Front Anticapitalista de l’Esquerra-Cooperació per l’Enderrocament (Antarsya), amb qui assegura simpatitzar.

La victòria de Syriza d’ara fa un any va ser un fet esperançador per a l’esquerra europea, també per l’esquerra grega?

Primer s’ha de distingir entre la gent que està organitzada i la gent que simplement pertany a l’esquerra. Per a la majoria de forces organitzades Syriza no era una esperança. Això es relaciona amb els seus orígens, que vénen de l’eurocomunisme, però també amb els coneguts lligams amb l’establishment. Per la majoria de gent que pertany a l’esquerra, en canvi, immersos en mig d’una crisi, amb pobresa, i amb un govern molt autoritari, Syriza es veu d’una altra manera.

«Syriza no és el típic partit de l’esquerra. És com una galàxia de petits grups, amb els seus propis líders que representen uns interessos particulars»

La possibilitat que alleugerés les polítiques d’austeritat i l’autoritarisme del moment es convertia en una esperança. Ara bé, en el moment en el qual Syriza trenca les seves promeses obertament i es rendeix davant la UE comença a perdre progressivament el suport de la gent comú de l’esquerra. Això en gran mesura va passar a les darreres eleccions en la que no es presentava com una força antiausteritat sinó com un mal menor davant del Pasok.

En relació al programa econòmic de Syriza, veiem que els seus posicionaments respecte a l’euro i el deute han variat. Per què?

Per tal d’entendre-ho cal veure què és Syriza. No és el típic partit de l’esquerra. És com una galàxia de petits grups, amb els seus propis líders i amb els seus lligams amb la societat, que representen uns interessos particulars. Per aquest motiu mai ha pogut tenir un programa econòmic coherent.

Va començar dient el 2012 “potser pensem en la possibilitat de desfer-nos de l’euro”, intentant seduir a l’esquerra. Per contra, a mesura que s’apropava al poder sabia que això era una línia vermella per a la burgesia grega, de manera que va oblidar la idea de trencar amb l’euro i parlava de frenar les polítiques d’austeritat dins la UE i l’eurozona. Quan va irrompre al poder va jugar la carta de negociar fortament amb la UE. Finalment va rendir-se deixant clar que no hi havia cap altra camí que el d’implementar els programes d’austeritat, el mateix que deien els governs anteriors. Per tant Syriza s’ha renovat i ha aparegut com un gerent més lleu de les polítiques d’austeritat que la troika.

«La UE no és res més que la unió dels capitals europeus dels països dominants»

Així, Syriza té una vincles molt clars amb el capital?

Claríssims. Ara és evident. Un any abans no ho era tant. La burgesia grega està dividida en diverses fraccions, ara bé, hi ha una gran divisió entra el gran capital. Per una banda, hi ha els anomenats “nous grups emergents” que creixen a finals del vuitanta i a principis del noranta sota l’administració de Costas Simits (Pasok) i després amb Nova Democràcia. Per l’altre els antics benefactors de l’administració d’Andreas Papandreou (Pasok) que es convertiren ens els perdedors amb l’ascens dels nous. Totes les fraccions del capital, al principi de forma encoberta, han donat suport a Syriza. Una vegada Syriza va ser escollida, l’altra fracció està jugant un joc de xoc-i-negociació amb Syriza també.

És Syriza l’exemple que en el capitalisme d’avui no pot estar entre dues aigües?

Sí, representa el fracàs de la idea que es pot democratitzar la Unió Europea (UE). La UE no és res més que la unió dels capitals europeus dels països dominants. Són els països de l’euro-centre els que imposen els seus propis interessos i prerrogatives a la resta, als capitals més dèbils i a la gent, evidentment.

L’economista Stavros Mavroudeas a Atenes / Helena Vàzquez

 

En un article recent al The Guardian, Costas Lapavitsas, exmembre de Syriza i ara el cervell del programa econòmic de LAE (Laiki Enotita), sembla ser bastant indulgent amb Syriza. Explica que el gran problema del partit va ser no saber desafiar l’euro.

Aquest és també el gran problema de Costas, i ho hauria d’haver sabut millor des del principi i no promoure i donar suport a Syriza com ho va fer.

Ell ho sabia?

Clar que ho sabia. Si no n’era conscient llavors s’hagués hagut de mantenir al marge. Si estigués a la seva posició, hagués donat suport Syriza i hagués contribuït a portar-la al poder llavors el mínim que podria fer és demanar perdó i oferir la meva autocrítica, una cosa que no he vist per part d’en Costas.

Parlant d’ell, en els teus treballs tu has estat molt crític amb les posicions post-keynesianes i marxo-keynesianes a l’hora de resoldre el dilema de la UE i la UEM (Unió Econòmica i Monetària).

Hi hagut un debat molt fort, vigent avui dia, dins l’espectre econòmic de l’esquerra grega. Hi ha els que, jo inclòs des d’un punt de vista marxista esgrimim que la UE no pot rectificar-se i que, per tant, considerem que l’esquerra ha treballar per tal que Grècia deixi la UE. En segon lloc, hi ha els que diuen que hem de mantenir-nos a la UE però sortir de la UEM, com en Costas. Finalment hi ha els que defensen mantenir-nos a la UE però canviar les seves polítiques d’austeritat.

Les dues últimes corrents van integrar-se dins de Syriza i les dues van fallar, fins i tot les que veien una sortida de la UEM a través d’un divorci consensuat. No es pot acordar de comú acord un divorci amb Wolfgang Schäuble! Només podrà donar-se en els seus propis i “bàrbars” termes. Crec que per l’esquerra d’avui és bastant clar, ha de batallar per una sortida completa de la UE.

Entre les dues últimes corrents que han participat a Syriza i les que no s’amaga una forma particular d’entendre la crisi?

Les dues corrents que he explicat que han participat dins de Syriza entenen la crisi com una crisi del deute. Això seria causa o bé un dèficit fiscal inviable o un dèficit comercial igualment inviable. Els dos fenòmens portarien a un dèficit per compte corrent. Aquestes serien les posicions keynesianes, post-keynesianes o Marxo-keynesianes. Per alta banda, la corrent que posposa sortir de la UE segueix una perspectiva marxista. Defensa que el deute és una conseqüència i no una causa i la crisi té unes arrels més profundes que es troben en l’esfera productiva. Aquestes qüestions són les que després es reflecteixen en les finances públiques. És a dir, els problemes de l’economia real reboten a les finances públiques i al deute extern. Per contra, les altres dues corrents diuen que no hi ha problemes en l’estructura productiva, per aquesta raó no toquen el mercat comú.

«Crec que Varoufakis és massa erràtic per ser marxista»

Darrere de com entenem el funcionament del capitalisme hi ha una forma particular d’intuir com s’ha de reorganitzar la producció per què sigui democràtica. No veig una preocupació excessiva per part de Lapavitsas a l’hora de pensar en el potencial transformador d’una sortida de l’euro.

En Costas ha abandonat realment el marxisme i s’ha traslladat al post-keynesianisme. Ha proposat el seu propi pla per salvar l’economia grega al voltant de sortir de la UEM. Aquest pla no diu res, no concreta, sobre la reestructuració de l’esfera productiva de l’economia. A més, suggereix moltes coses, fins i tot parla de socialisme. Però mai mostra com el seu pla condueix a una transició socialista. De fet, quan parla de socialisme (i poques vegades ho fa) ho veu com una cosa en el futur a molt llarg termini sense cap vincle coherent al seu pla. Però, com va dir John Maynard Keynes, en “el llarg termini tots estarem morts” …

I ara li toca a Yanis Varoufakis… es mereix l’etiqueta de marxista erràtic?

Crec que Varoufakis és massa erràtic per ser marxista.

Quin és la seva posició a Grècia?

Ell ve de Giorgos Papandreu Pasok. Va ser assessor del govern que va portar la Troika a Grècia. Per descomptat que ell ho va deixar en aquell moment i va anar a Syriza. Varoufakis és keynesià, però no d’una forma clara. Ell no té una teoria, ni tan sols una anàlisi coherent. Predica el “agnosticisme radical”, que en realitat vol dir que no necessitem una teoria; només una anàlisi conjuntural. Això el porta a dir moltes coses que es contradiuen entre sí amb molta facilitat. A Grècia ara és una cosa del passat.

Mavroudeas és professor d’economia a la Universitat de Macedònia, a Tessalònica / Helena Vàzquez

 

Però ha impulsat aquest “Pla B” a escala europea.

S’estarà movent a l’estranger però a Grècia ha perdut tota credibilitat.

Què en penses d’aquesta proposta?

Hi ha un intent per Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Stefano Fassina i Oskar Lafontaine per crear un moviment en l’àmbit europeu que aglutini als euroescèptics de l’esquerra, permetin-me dir així. Ells es mostren escèptics sobre la integració europea, però creuen que pot ser democratitzada. No entenen que la UE és una estructura reaccionària que no pot ser reformada sinó només destruïda; i aquesta és la tasca de l’esquerra.

Per acabar, perspectives a curt termini i opcions per l’esquerra?

Per ara Syriza s’està enfonsant ràpidament i està perdent el suport popular. Al mateix temps, un bloc neoliberal coherent s’està construint al voltant de Nova Democràcia. Aquest bloc pressiona la capitulada Syriza per moure-la encara més a la dreta, per tal de salvar-se la seva pell acomodant la burgesia i la UE. Això vol dir que l’espectre polític oficial s’està movent ràpidament cap a la dreta. Alhora, la societat està polaritzant ràpidament entre rics i pobres. Això porta a una enorme discrepància entre la representació política i l’estructura social. Això deixa espai per l’esquerra, la veritable esquerra. L’esquerra ha d’avançar audaçment per oferir a la gent treballadora una proposta política i “propopular”: sortir de la UE per complet i reestructurar l’economia grega per avançar cap al socialisme.

 

 ================================================

Stavros Mavroudeas: ‘Syriza is sinking and losing popular support’

– The victory of Syriza, one year ago, was an encouraging fact for the European left; was it also for the Greek left?

First you must distinguish between people who are organized and people who simply belong to the left. For most organized forces Syriza was no hope. This is related to its origins, it comes from Eurocommunism and has well-known ties with the establishment. For most people who belong to the left, however, immersed in the middle of a crisis, with poverty, with a very authoritarian government, Syriza was understood in a different way.

The possibility of relieving the austerity policies and authoritarianism at that moment seemed as a hope. However, in the moment in which Syriza breaks its promises openly and capitulates in front of EU begins to gradually lose the support of ordinary people on the left. This largely happened in the last elections in which he portrayed itself not as an anti-austerity force but as a lesser evil against PASOK and ND.

 

– Regarding the economic program of Syriza, we see that it has moved its positions against the euro and debt. Why?

To understand this we must see what Syriza is. It is not the typical party of the Left. It’s like a galaxy of small groups with their leaders and their ties with enterprises, representing private interests. For this reason he has never been able to have a coherent economic program.

It began in 2012 saying «maybe we consider to get rid of the euro», trying to seduce the left. Later, as it approached to the power, it knew that this was a red line for the Greek bourgeoisie, so he forgot the idea of breaking with the euro and spoke to stopping austerity policies within the EU and the eurozone. When he reached the power it played the card of negotiating strongly with the EU. Finally surrendering making it clear that there was no other way than to implement austerity programs, the same as said by the previous governments. So SYRIZA revamped itself to the people as a milder manager of the troika austerity policies.

 

– So, Syriza has very clear links with the capital?

Clearly. This is now evident. A year earlier it was not so. The Greek bourgeoisie is divided into various factions; however, there is a great division inside the big capital. On one hand, there are the so-called «new emerging groups» that grew in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s under the administration of Simitis’ PASOK and after New Democracy. On the other hand they are the older beneficiaries of the Andreas Papandreou PASOK administrations. The latter became the losers with the rise of new ones. These old fractions of the capital have given support to Syriza, in the beginning covertly. Once Syriza was elected, the other faction is playing a game of clash-and-negotiation with Syriza as well.

 

– Syriza is the example that capitalism today can’t be in between two waters?

Yes, it represents the failure of the idea that it is possible to democratize the European Union. The European Union is nothing more than the union of European capital of dominant countries. The euro-centre countries impose their own interests and prerogatives to the others, the weaker capitals and people, of course.

 

– In a recent article in «The Guardian» Costas Lapavitsas, a former member of Syriza’s and now having a role in the economic program LAE (Laiki Enotita), seems to be pretty indulgent with Syriza. He explains that the big problem was that didn’t know how to challenge the euro.

This is also the big problem with Costas. He should have known better from the beginning and not to promote and support Syriza as he did.

 

– He knew it?

Of course he knew it. If he was not aware of that then he should have stayed aside. If I were in his position, if I had helped the political fraud that is Syriza to gain power then, the least I could do would be to apologize and offer my self-critique, something that I haven’t seen by Costas.

 

– Speaking of him, in your work you’ve been very critical of the Keynesian and post-Keynesian proposals about solving the problems of the EU and EMU.

There was a strong debate, and it still remains today, within the spectrum of the economists of the Greek left. Firstly, there are those (me included) who, from a Marxist point of view, argue that the EU cannot be rectified and therefore the left should propose that Greece leaves the EU. Secondly, there are those who say that we must remain in the EU but leave the EMU, (as Costas). Finally there are those who argue to remain in the EU but to change its austerity policies. The last two currents joined in Syriza and both failed; even those that proposed an exit from the EMU through a consensual divorce. It is impossible to get a decent agreement of a divorce from Schauble! This can only occur in his own barbaric terms. I think that the role of the left today is quite clear: the left should fight for a complete disengagement from the EU.

 

– In between the last two trends that have participated in Syriza and those who didn’t there was a particular way of understanding the crisis?

The two currents that participated in Syriza understood the crisis as simply a crisis of debt. This was caused by either an unviable fiscal deficit or and equally unviable trade deficit. Both led to a current account deficit. Their analyses followed Keynesian, post-Keynesian or Marxo-Keynesian perspectives. On the other hand, the current that proposed leaving the EU follows the Marxist perspective. It argues that debt is a consequence and not a cause and that the crisis has deeper causes that lay in the productive sphere. These causes are then reflected in the public finances. That is, the problems of the real economy determine public finances and external debt. By contrast, the other two currents say that there are no problems in the Greek productive structure; therefore they do not touch the European Common Market.

 

– Last of how we understand the workings of capitalism there a particular way to intuit how to reorganize production to make it democratic. I do not see an excessive concern on the part of Lapavitsas when thinking about the transformative potential of an exit of the euro.

Costas has actually abandoned Marxism and moved towards post-Keynesianism. He has proposed his own plan to save the Greek economy constracted around leaving the EMU. This plan does not say anything serious or concrete about the restructuring of the productive sphere of the economy. Furthermore, he suggests many things, he even speaks about socialism. But he never shows how his plan leads to a socialist transition. In fact, when he speaks about socialism (and he rarely does so) he sees it as something in the very long-term future without any coherent link to his plan. But, as John Maynard Keynes said, in «the long term we are all dead»…

 

– And now it is the turn of Yanis Varoufakis ..Does he deserve the self-given label of an erratic Marxist?

I think Varoufakis is too erratic to be Marxist.

 

– What is his position in Greece?

He comes from Giorgos Papandreou PASOK. He was an advisor to the government that brought the Troika in Greece. Of course he left it at that time and went to Syriza. Varoufakis is Keynesian but not in clear way. He doesn’t have a theory, not even a coherent analysis. He preaches ‘radical agnosticism’ which actually means that we do not need a theory; just a conjunctural analysis. This leads him to say many things that contradict each other very easily. In Greece now he is a thing of the past.

 

– But he has promoted ‘Plan B’ in Europe.

He can be moving around abroad but in Greece he has lost all credibility.

 

– What do you think of this proposal?

There is an attempt by Jean-Luc Mélenchon [co-founder of Partie Gauche (left)], Stefano Fassina [future leader of Sinistra (Future left)], and Oskar Lafontaine [ founder of Die Linke (the left)], to create a movement in a European level that gathers the Eurosceptics on the left, let me say it like this. They are skeptical about European integration but think that it can be democratized. They do not understand that the EU is a reactionary structure that can’t be reformed but only destroyed; and this is the task of the left.

 

– Finally, what are the prospects in a short-term and which are the options for the left?

For now Syriza is crumbling rapidly; losing popular support. At the same time a coherent neoliberal bloc is being built around New Democracy. This bloc presses the capitulated Syriza to move even further to the right (in order to save its skin by accommodating with the bourgeoisie and the EU). This means that the official political spectrum is moving rapidly to the right. At the same time the society is rapidly polarizing between the rich and the poor. This leads to a huge discrepancy between political representation and social structure. This leaves room for the left, the true left. The left must venture boldly to offer to the working people a realistic pro-popular political proposal: leaving the EU completely and moving to restructure the Greek economy as a pre-condition for socialist transition.


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CounterPunch: perchè Syriza sta colando a picco in Grecia

Counterpunch riporta l’intervista del sito catalano Directa a Stavros Mavroudeas, professore di economia politica all’università della Macedonia, sullo stato della politica e del dibattito economico greco. La radicalità del professore marxista fa da controcanto agli scontri della settimana scorsa e alla crescente instabilità del paese ellenico.

di Stavros Mavroudeas, 09-02-2016

D. La vittoria di Syriza, un anno fa, è stato un fatto incoraggiante per la sinistra europea; lo è stato anche per la sinistra greca?

Mavroudeas: In primo luogo dobbiamo distinguere tra persone riunite in un’organizzazione e persone che semplicemente si sentono parte della sinistra. Per le forze più organizzate Syriza in nessun modo era una speranza. Questo per via della sua origine, Syriza nasce dall’Eurocomunismo e ha legami ben noti con la classe dirigente. Ma dalla maggior parte delle persone che appartengono alla sinistra, tuttavia, immerse nel bel mezzo di una crisi, con la povertà e un governo molto autoritario, Syriza è stata recepita in modo diverso.

In quel momento la possibilità di alleviare le politiche di austerità e l’autoritarismo sembravano una speranza. Tuttavia, nel momento in cui Syriza rompe apertamente le proprie promesse e capitola davanti alla UE, inizia a perdere gradualmente il sostegno della gente comune di sinistra. Questo è ciò che è in gran parte accaduto nelle ultime elezioni, in cui Syriza si è presentata non come una forza anti-austerità, ma come un male minore contro PASOK e ND.

D. Per quanto riguarda il programma economico di Syriza, vediamo che ha cambiato le sue posizioni nei confronti dell’euro e del debito. Perché?

Mavroudeas: Per comprenderlo dobbiamo vedere cos’è Syriza. Non è il tipico partito della sinistra. E’ una galassia di piccoli gruppi con i loro leader e i loro legami con le imprese, che rappresentano interessi privati. Per questo motivo non è mai stata in grado di avere un programma economico coerente.

Ha cominciato nel 2012 dichiarando che «possiamo ritenere opportuno sbarazzarci dell’euro», cercando di sedurre la sinistra. Più tardi, mentre si avvicinava al potere, sapeva che questa era una linea rossa per la borghesia greca, così ha abbandonato l’idea di rompere con l’euro e ha sostenuto di voler fermare le politiche di austerità all’interno dell’UE e della zona euro. Quando ha raggiunto il potere ha giocato la carta della negoziazione di forza con l’UE. Alla fine ha ceduto mettendo in chiaro che l’unica via era implementare i programmi di austerità, la stessa cosa che sostenevano i governi precedenti. Così Syriza si è rilanciata come mite responsabile delle politiche di austerità della troika.

D. Quindi, Syriza ha collegamenti molto espliciti con il capitale?

Mavroudeas: Chiaramente. Adesso è evidente. Un anno fa non era così. La borghesia greca è divisa in varie fazioni; tuttavia, c’è una grande divisione all’interno del grande capitale. Da un lato, ci sono i cosiddetti «nuovi gruppi emergenti» che sono cresciuti alla fine degli anni ’80 e all’inizio degli anni ’90 sotto l’amministrazione PASOK di Simitis e dopo Nuova Democrazia. Dall’altra parte ci sono i più anziani beneficiari delle amministrazioni PASOK di Andreas Papandreou. Questi ultimi sono diventati i perdenti con l’ascesa dei nuovi. Queste vecchie frazioni del capitale hanno dato sostegno a Syriza, all’inizio di nascosto. Una volta che Syriza è stata eletta, anche l’altra fazione ha iniziato a giocare una partita scontro-e-negoziazione con Syriza.

D. Syriza è l’esempio che il capitalismo oggi può avere un solo vincitore?

Mavroudeas: Sì, rappresenta il fallimento dell’idea che sia possibile democratizzare l’Unione Europea. L’Unione Europea non è altro che l’unione del capitale dei paesi europei dominanti. I paesi del centro impongono i propri interessi e prerogative agli altri, capitali e popoli più deboli, naturalmente.

D. In un recente articolo su «The Guardian», Costas Lapavitsas, un ex membro di Syriza che adesso ha un ruolo nel programma economico del LAE (Laiki Enotita) [Unione Popolare, in italiano, ndT], sembra essere abbastanza indulgente con Syriza. Egli dice che il grande problema era che non si sapeva come uscire dall’euro.

Mavroudeas: Questo è il grosso problema anche con Costas. Egli fin dall’inizio non avrebbe dovuto essere così ingenuo da promuovere e sostenere Syriza come ha fatto.

D. Lo sapeva?

Mavroudeas: Certo che lo sapeva. Se non ne era a conoscenza avrebbe dovuto restare in disparte. Se fossi al suo posto, se avessi aiutato la truffa politica che è Syriza a raggiungere il potere, allora il minimo che potrei fare sarebbe quello di chiedere scusa e fare autocritica, cosa che non ho visto fare da Costas.

D. A proposito di lui, nel tuo lavoro sei stato molto critico nei confronti delle proposte keynesiane e post-keynesiane per risolvere i problemi della UE e dell’UEM.

Mavroudeas: C’è stato un dibattito forte, e continua ancora oggi, all’interno dello spettro degli economisti della sinistra greca. In primo luogo, ci sono quelli (me compreso) che, da un punto di vista marxista, sostengono che l’UE non può essere corretta e quindi la sinistra dovrebbe proporre che la Grecia esca dall’Unione europea. In secondo luogo, ci sono quelli che dicono che dobbiamo rimanere nell’UE, ma lasciare l’eurozona (come Costas). Infine ci sono quelli che sostengono di rimanere nell’UE, ma cambiando le sue politiche di austerità. Le ultime due correnti erano unite in Syriza ed hanno entrambi fallito; anche quelli che hanno proposto l’uscita dall’unione monetaria attraverso un divorzio consensuale. E’ impossibile ottenere un accordo decente di divorzio da Schauble! Ciò può avvenire solo ai suoi barbari termini. Credo che il ruolo della sinistra oggi sia piuttosto chiaro: la sinistra dovrebbe lottare per un disimpegno totale dall’UE.

D. C’era un particolare modo di intendere la crisi tra le due tendenze che partecipavano a Syriza e quelli che non partecipavano?

Mavroudeas: Le due correnti che hanno partecipato a Syriza hanno inteso la crisi semplicemente come una crisi del debito. Ciò è stato causato da un deficit fiscale impraticabile o da un deficit commerciale altrettanto impraticabile. Entrambi i deficit hanno portato ad un disavanzo delle partite correnti. Le loro analisi hanno seguito una prospettiva keynesiana, post-keynesiana o marxista-keynesiana. D’altra parte, la corrente che ha proposto di lasciare l’UE segue la prospettiva marxista. Essa sostiene che il debito è una conseguenza e non una causa e che la crisi ha cause più profonde che si trovano nella sfera produttiva. Queste cause sono poi riflesse nei conti pubblici. Cioè, i problemi dell’economia reale determinano le finanze pubbliche e il debito estero. Per contro, le altre due correnti sostengono che non ci sono problemi nella struttura produttiva greca; quindi non giungono a toccare il Mercato Comune Europeo.

D. Gli ultimi di quelli che sostengono che capito il funzionamento del capitalismo c’è un modo particolare di intuire come riorganizzare la produzione per renderlo democratico. Non vedo una preoccupazione eccessiva da parte di Lapavitsas quando si pensa al potenziale di trasformazione di una uscita dell’euro.

Mavroudeas: Costas effettivamente ha abbandonato il marxismo ed è andato verso il post-keynesismo. Ha proposto il suo piano per salvare l’economia greca costruito intorno all’uscita dall’UEM. Questo piano non dice nulla di importante o concreto sulla ristrutturazione della sfera produttiva dell’economia. Inoltre, egli suggerisce molte cose, parla anche di socialismo. Ma non mostra mai come il suo piano porti ad una transizione socialista. In realtà, quando parla di socialismo (e raramente lo fa), lo vede come qualcosa nel futuro, a lungo termine, senza alcun collegamento coerente col suo piano. Ma, come diceva John Maynard Keynes, «nel lungo periodo saremo tutti morti» …

D. E ora è la volta di Yanis Varoufakis ..merita l’etichetta che si è dato da solo, di marxista imprevedibile?

Mavroudeas: penso che Varoufakis sia troppo imprevedibile per essere marxista.

D. Qual è la sua posizione in Grecia?

Mavroudeas: Viene dal PASOK di Giorgos Papandreou. E’ stato consulente del governo che ha portato la Troika in Grecia. Naturalmente ha lasciato la posizione in quel periodo ed è andato con Syriza. Varoufakis è keynesiano, ma in modo non chiaro. Non ha una teoria, nemmeno un’analisi coerente. Predica un ‘agnosticismo radicale’ che significa in realtà che non abbiamo bisogno di una teoria; solo di un’analisi congiunturale. Questo lo porta a dire molte cose che si contraddicono a vicenda molto facilmente. In Grecia ora è una cosa del passato.

D. Ma ha promosso ‘Piano B’ in Europa.

Mavroudeas: egli può viaggiare in continuazione all’estero, ma in Grecia ha perso ogni credibilità.

D. Cosa pensa di questa proposta?

Mavroudeas: C’è un tentativo da parte di Jean-Luc Mélenchon [co-fondatore di Partie Gauche (sinistra)], Stefano Fassina [futuro leader di Sinistra Italiana (sinistra)], e Oskar Lafontaine [fondatore di Die Linke (sinistra)] di creare un movimento a livello europeo che raccoglie gli euroscettici di sinistra, mi permetta di dirlo a questo modo. Sono scettici circa l’integrazione europea, ma ritengono che possa essere democratizzata. Non capiscono che l’UE è una struttura reazionaria che non può essere riformata ma solo distrutta; e questo è il compito della sinistra.

D. Infine, quali sono le prospettive a breve termine e quali sono le opzioni per la sinistra?

Mavroudeas: Per ora Syriza si sta sgretolando rapidamente; sta perdendo il sostegno popolare. Allo stesso tempo, è stato costruito un blocco neoliberista coerente attorno a Nuova Democrazia. Questo blocco preme Syriza, ormai arresa, perchè si sposti ancora più a destra (per salvarsi la pelle soddisfacendo la borghesia e l’UE). Ciò significa che lo spettro politico ufficiale si sta muovendo rapidamente verso destra. Allo stesso tempo, la società si sta rapidamente polarizzando tra ricchi e poveri. Questo porta ad una enorme discrepanza tra la rappresentanza politica e la struttura sociale. Ciò lascia spazio alla sinistra, alla vera sinistra. La sinistra deve osare coraggiosamente per offrire ai lavoratori una realistica proposta politica pro-popolare: lasciare del tutto l’UE e andare verso la ristrutturazione dell’economia greca come pre-condizione per la transizione socialista.

 

SYRIZA votes for a disastrous new EU austerity program – A new popular political front against the EU is required

The following is the extended transcript of the interview I gave today to the News program of the Press TV.

Press TV

http://www.presstv.ir/Default/Live

 

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SYRIZA votes for a disastrous new EU austerity program

A new popular political front against the EU is required

 

The new austerity program that was proposed yesterday (13/8/2015) by the SYRIZA government and voted by the majority of SYRIZA and the discredited old pro-austerity and pro-EU (European Union) parties brings disaster for the Greek people. Economic depression will be aggravated, foreign debt will be increased, wages and pensions reduced even more, poverty exacerbated and Greece’s subservience to EU’s imperialism heightened.

The SYRIZA government has followed the course of the previous New Democracy (ND) government. It has been elected on an anti-austerity electoral platform. Once elected, it pretended that it negotiated forcefully with the EU for a remaking of the austerity restructuring program for Greece. However, soon it capitulated to EU and became another puppet government.

This political betrayal produced a schism in SYRIZA with its Left wing rejecting the new austerity program and ready to break out from the party. However, till now SYRIZA’s Left wing has adopted a hermaphrodite political position: it rejects the austerity program but supports the SYRIZA government that pushes it forward. This is an untenable position. SYRIZA’s Left wing has to decide: either it will remain within the party and try to rectify it (which is obviously infeasible) or it breaks out and creates a new political front. It would be foolish if it tries the second option on each own. The SYRIZA’s Left wing has neither the organizational capabilities nor the political clout for this. If it had both (or either of them) it would not have participated in SYRIZA (whose treacherous course was predictable). A new popular political front can only be created if it unite the significant Left and popular forces that exist outside SYRIZA and have a significant presence in popular movements. A new political front must also have a clear program. It has to confront the EU and openly adhere Greece’s secession from this exploitative imperialist organization. Any hesitation regarding this is self-defeating. Unfortunately, SYRIZA’s Left wing till now has not made any clear move in these two crucial aspects. If it fails to do so then its demise is on the cards.

SYRIZA’s capitulation to the EU and the tough austerity measures of the new program (and their prerequisite actions) have already started biting people’s incomes and eroding SYRIZA’s electoral support. This is leading to an ‘Argntinian situation’. In Argentina neoliberal Peronist Menem government was voted out because of it austerity measures dictated by its dollarization policy (i.e. relinquishing monetary independency). A series of governments followed that all were nominally anti-neoliberal and anti-imperialist. However, none of them ventured to cross the system’s ‘red line’: dollarization. The result was that all of them, in practice, followed Menem’s economic policies and for this reason they were forced out by popular revolt. Similarly, SYRIZA does not question the Greek systemic ‘red line’: the participation to the EU. This participation may bring profits to the Greek oligarchy but it is the ‘mother of almost all evils’ for the Greek pople. For this reason SYRIZA will also, sooner or later, face popular anger.

Currently, SYRIZA is trying to negotiate with the EU imperialist their permission to hold snap elections. It calculates that, before the new austerity measures destroy people’s incomes, a snap election will give SYRIZA enough electoral support to remain in government. However, the EU imperialists are hesitant as even a snap election will have an injurious economic impact. Moreover, they prefer a coalition between SYRIZA and the old pro-austerity and pro-EU parties.

In all cases people’s anger is boiling and the mainstream political parties (SYRIZA included) that are subservient to the EU and the Greek oligarchy are losing support. The times are calling for a change. The necessity for a new popular political front that will confront the EU and lead Greece’s secession from it is obvious.

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SYRIZA is trying to limit popular discontent against its capitulation to EU and relaxes capital controls in banking

SYRIZA is trying to limit popular discontent against its capitulation to EU and relaxes capital controls in banking

 

Stavros Mavroudeas

 

diagram

On Sunday (19-7-2015) the SYRIZA-ANEL government announced that the ‘banking holiday’ imposed 21 days ago will be lifted and banks will re-open. Also, there will be a relaxation of the stringent capital controls imposed (see http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/07/19/420892/Greece-banks-shutdown-debt-crisis).

This is an economic and political damage limitation move.

First, capital controls were in fact imposed on Greece by the ECB as it curtailed its provision of liquidity to Greek banks. ECB did so, in close co-operation with the EU, in order to coerce SYRIZA to accept the troika (EU-ECB-IMF) austerity program and implement it unconditionally.

Second, capital controls caused serious economic and political problems. The already gravely wounded by the troika austerity program Greek economy took a severe hit because of the additional problems in financing its activities. It is estimated that ECB’s curtailing of liquidity cost more than 3bn euros. In political terms the climax from a limited liquidity to fully blown capital controls signified a blatant imperialist intervention by the EU in the affairs of Greece. The ECB, as the long arm of the troika, obliged the foolish and wavering SYRIZA government to impose the unpopular capital controls the very week before the crucial referendum of the 5th of July. With this move it tried to blackmail the Greek people and coerce them to vote for YES (that is for capitulating to the insolent demands of the EU). However, this blackmail backfired as the mass of working people and lower middle strata – that constitute the vast majority of the Greek population – voted for NO. However, the very next day of this resounding referendum result, SYRIZA betrayed it, realigned itself with the pro-EU and pro-business opposition parties and proceeded to agree to a third 3-year troika austerity program (https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/2856/). This causes a growing rift between SYRIZA (who is becoming another EU-subservient austerity government) and the vast popular majority.

Third, in order to ameliorate these problems, SYRIZA – working in tandem this time with the EU – relaxes capital controls. As it faces popular discontent it tries, first, to realign itself with the business interests hit by the restriction of finance and, second, to placate the common people whose everyday lives have been disrupted by the freezing of their mediocre deposits.

The outcome of this damage limitation move is dubious. With the 3rd austerity program the Greek economy is led into further recession and the working people and the middle strata will pay the costs. With or without capital controls popular support for SYRIZA is withering away.

 

* Stavros Mavroudeas is a Professor of Political Economy in the Economics Department of the University of Macedonia.

e-mail: smavro@uom.edu.gr

web: https://stavrosmavroudeas.wordpress.com

Published in COUNTERPUNCH

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/20/syriza-tries-to-limit-popular-discontent-against-its-capitulation-to-eu-and-relaxes-capital-controls-in-banking/

 

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